Congratulations to Fr Tom, from St Bonaventure's Parish, on his 15th Anniversary of Ordination. Here is his reflection from the day...
"On Thursday I celebrated the anniversary of my ordination. Usually the Ninth of July is held as a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing in my heart but this year even more so. Thursday saw my Fifteenth, yes fifteenth, anniversary of ordination! I was able to celebrate in a place that has become very special in my heart, the Convent of the Sisters of Mary Morning Star in Lynton, North Devon. Recently this new community of Sisters have moved into what was the Poor Clare Convent. The atmosphere of prayer is so beautiful, and the sisters are so welcoming, to me it is a foretaste of heaven. As I look back over the years there have been many highs and some lows on the journey. I am so grateful that today the Lord has brought me to a place of peace and happiness and that I can live out this vocation with joy.
Being a Priest is a profound privilege. I remember when I was first ordained looking at my hands after Mass, quite amazed that ‘these’ hands had consecrated the Eucharist! To recognise that Jesus has chosen to work through me and bring his presence to the world is beyond comprehension, it is mind boggling! There is a connection that a Priest has with people through ministering the sacraments that is totally unique, no one else anywhere on earth can have that connection with people except a Priest, as Jesus works through the Priest and his grace enters the heart of another a miracle occurs. The presence of the Priest is the presence of Christ, this can be very hard for a Priest to remember, we are very human and sometimes so aware of our humanity that we forget that people are seeing something very special in us. It can take a long time to grow into being Christ in the world. Seminary cannot teach you that, really only by watching older, good Priests can you learn how to live such a humbling vocation. Being part of special or meaningful moments in peoples lives is a great joy, to celebrate someone’s wedding, for example, is to enable one of the happiest moments in a couples life, that is truly meaningful. To be present at the death of a loved one or to take their funeral can mean so much to a family. It is a unique and special vocation and I am humbled to be able to share in the ministry of Jesus in this way.
Being a Priest can be difficult, I don’t mean more difficult than any other vocations or jobs because from where I sit being a parent looks challenging and so does being an unskilled labourer with little job security or health care. What I mean is that being a Priest comes with a unique set of challenges. One of the things I have found difficult is that you do not really have any colleagues your age. In years past there were enough Priests to have a couple of new Priests together or nearby and you could enjoy being young and inexperienced together but today because Priests are so scarce there are very few Priests of a similar age to have fun with and this can make Priesthood a bit too serious at times. In days gone by you would have to wait a long time to be given your own parish and would have time before you took on a lot of responsibility, now you are given a parish very quickly out of necessity and have to take on a serious role while you maybe still inexperienced. These are pressures that an older generation Priests would not have known. Also, many people who work in environments with a good support structure around them often go home to a family with whom they can share some of the challenges of work. Most Priests go home alone. I do not believe any of these combinations are particularly healthy. Living alone can allow a Priest to become particularly selfish or inward looking as well. Although many aspects of modern day Priesthood are different from years past there are some things that never change, the love and support of the people in our parishes is one of them.The love that many of the lay faithful have towards their Priests is always astounding. People take us to their hearts in ways I find constantly surprising, this is one of the greatest joys and consolations of Priesthood. The warmth and love which we receive is a precious gift. Of course we do get our fair share of complainers and haters, but it more than balances out! I have enjoyed many friendships with parishioners in each parish I have been in and enjoy meeting people, St Bon’s is no exception. I would like to say a big thank you to all of you for you love, care, support and kindness, my time at St Bon’s has been and continues to be very meaningful and I think something amazing is happening here, I can really sense the Holy Spirit working among us. I thank you for opening your hearts to him and responding to his call, that is the greatest joy any Priest can have, a community alive in Jesus!Fr Tom"